According to the Center for Disease, Control and Prevention, in the United States, 1 in 3 women are victims of violence by someone they know. It is 1 in 10 for men. Domestic Violence is any type of physical, sexual, emotional, financial and/or psychological violence by an intimate partner, spouse or family member. Unless you have worked with victims of violence or have experienced violence, it is sometimes very difficult to understand why victims continue to live with their abuser and expose themselves and their children to further abuse.
Generally, the goal of the abuser is to assert power and control over a weaker person. The victim may have not started out as being weak, but with repeated acts of violence, the victim may begin to believe they are worthless, stupid, they deserve the beating, they are financially trapped, because the victim and their children are dependent on the abuser, they have no place to go, they are embarrassed to admit to others they are being abused, they are afraid of being deported, or they are threaten, with death or kidnapping of themselves, their children or another loved one.
Unless the victim has been courageous in seeking the help of the police, shelter or other organization, they may not know how to leave their abuser. The following list is aimed at providing some general safety planning for the victim. If they do leave, I would immediately encourage them to seek the help of police who can connect them to appropriate local resources and advocates.
1) Get copies of your financial records. Do this when it is safe to search for these records, make copies and return the original documents to their original location.
2) Gather essential clothing for yourself and your children.
3) If you have babies or small children, don’t forget their needs (milk, diapers, clothing, shoes, vaccination records, their favorite toy or blanket).
4) Keep your medical, social security card, and passports in a safe place. If you can’t get the originals, make a copy and then apply to replace these. If you fear the other parent may kidnap the child if you flee, let the police know, contact the Secretary of The State's Office of Children's Issues at 1-800-407-4747.
5) Make a copy of your car keys and conceal them in a safe place (ex: underneath a fake rock, underneath your vehicle using a metal container with a magnet, behind the laundry machine or fake flower pot...)
6) Leave your items and clothings with a friend you can trust, or conceal them in the trunk of your car or garage. You should be able to quickly retrieve your items and make a quick escape.
7) Keep a list of phone numbers and addresses of your local police departments, they may respond quicker than calling 911.
8) In California, if you have children and leave the county, as soon as possible contact the District Attorney of the County you left and ask to file a “Good Cause Report”. This way, you will be protected from false allegations of parental kidnapping.
9) As soon as you are safe, consider speaking with an attorney to file for an order of protection. In California, domestic violence restraining orders are free and you can get immediate orders regarding child custody and support.
My final thoughts: Preparing to leave an abusive situation is very courageous and I understand it takes time, but please know you are not alone. There are many wonderful organizations to help you. Feel free to contact me if you need help or guidance on resources.